If current Inwood residents were transported back to the 1930’s they might find the area a bit strange, if not spooky. Ramshackle homes and ancient mansions stood next to newly constructed apartment houses. An “Indian Princess” held court beneath a dying tulip tree in Inwood Hill Park. The hulking remains of long abandoned asylums still lined the ridge of Inwood Hill. Children, lacking playgrounds, found entertainment in condemned cemeteries.
But 1930’s resident, Edward van Sloan, who lived on the corner of West 215th Street and Seaman Avenue, likely enjoyed the oddities of this strange transitional era. He was, after all, a “monster hunter“—a horror actor still remembered for his roles in Dracula, Frankenstein and The Mummy.
Edward van Sloan
In 1930, Federal Census taker Elizabeth Johnson found the 45-year-old van Sloan, his wife, the former Myra Jackson and 19-year-old son, Paul, living in a rented apartment inside 230 Seaman Avenue. When asked to describe his occupation, he told the census taker that he was a “stage actor.” A year later the world would know him as Bela Lugosi’s nemesis on the silver screen.
Edward van Sloan was born in Minnesota in 1882. For the first half of his life he was employed as a largely unnoticed stage actor.
Then, in 1924, producer Horace Liveright chose van Sloan for the role of Professor Abraham Van Helsing in a Broadway stage adaptation of Dracula. Six years later director Tod Browning invited van Sloan to act in a motion picture. The resulting work, the 1931 film adaptation of Dracula, is still considered a masterpiece of the horror genre.
The role of “monster hunter” came to define van Sloan’s acting career. He played similar parts in Frankenstein (1931), The Mummy (1932) and Dracula’s Daughter (1936).
Appearing out of character van Sloan recorded a disclaimer warning 1931 theater audiences that the film Frankenstein film was not for the faint of heart. (Above)
He died in 1964 at the age of 81.